Old Film Reviews – BELLY 2: MILLIONAIRE BOYZ CLUB

belly2The great thing about direct-to-video market is that it has created an opportunity for a vast array of sequels to films that no one really wanted to see sequels of in the first place. We’ve all seen these titles on the shelves at our local video store, and thought to ourselves, “How do the second, third and fourth Posion Ivy films stack up to the original?’ I mean come on…who hasn’t cast a curious glance at American Pyscho II: All American Girl, and found themselves thinking, “I bet that really sucks”? And yet, for whatever reason, far too many people end up watching our fair share of these insidious sequels that often have little or nothing to do with the original film in the franchise.

The latest film to join the ranks of in-name-only sequels is Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club, which has nothing to do with 1998’s crappy and convoluted Belly, starring rappers Nas and DMX. A visually stylish hip-hop crime melodrama, the original Belly managed to develop something of a cult following, even though it was, for all intents and purposes, a bad film. This loyal following of blunt-smoking, 40 oz.-swilling gangsta aficionados is the core audience for Belly 2, even though the two films are not related in any way. Continue reading

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Old Film Reviews – THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE

mr hydeIf director John Carl Buechler’s adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was just really bad, or just really stupid, then it might have been able to pass itself off as a bit of fun trash. After all, it isn’t unheard of that a film can be bad or stupid and still be entertaining. Unfortunately, this version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of duality is both bad and stupid—two unpleasant cinematic tastes that do not taste great together. The end result is a film that sadly can’t even be compared to a train wreck so much as a car accident between a Ford Pinto and an AMC Pacer. Continue reading

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Old Film Reviews – WHITE DOG

whitedogIf there was ever a film I thought would never see the light of day on DVD, it would have to be director Sam Fuller’s White Dog. Regarded by many as one of the most controversial films of all time—unwarranted hyperbolic exaggeration if there ever was any—White Dog has languished, practically unreleased since its production in 1982. Since that time it has had a relatively insignificant theatrical release overseas, while never enjoying a legitimate home video release in the United States. It has also become something of an urban myth, creating around it a sense of cinematic taboo usually reserved for films like Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust or Michael and Roberta Findlay’s Snuff. Continue reading

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Older Film Reviews – ACE IN THE HOLE

ace in the holeBy the time he made 1951’s Ace in the Hole director Billy Wilder had already earned his reputation as a cynical filmmaker. Three of Wilder’s earlier films—Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard—had already firmly established the director as someone who was interested in showing the darker side of humanity. And while those films certainly were dark explorations of desire, greed and excess, all were merely test-runs for what was to be considered Wilder’s most cynical films, as well as one of the most pessimistic films of all time. Continue reading

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Old Film Reviews – ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN

one armed sowrdThe Shaw Brothers studio in Hong Kong was responsible for producing some of the greatest Wushu (martial arts) films of all time. In the 1970s kung fu flicks flooded American drive-in theaters and grindhouses, and some of the most memorable films came courtesy of Shaw Brothers. But the style and genre of film most Americans associate with Shaw Brothers was relatively new to the studio, part of a new generation Wushu films that was ushered in during the 1960s with titles like the seminal classic One-Armed Swordsman. Continue reading

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Old Film Reviews – THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS

algiersOver four decades ago, Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers was considered one of the most provocative, politically incendiary movies of its time. The Black Panther Party used it as a training film, the French government banned it, and lovers of cinema revered it as a masterpiece. In 2003, the Pentagon hosted a special screening of the film, in hopes it would shed valuable light on how to deal with rebel forces in Iraq. The following year The Battle of Algiers was released in a beautifully packaged addition to the Criterion Collection, where it could be studied, appreciated and, no doubt, argued about. Continue reading

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SUPER JUSTICE FORCE Fan Art

jj kirby artJust wanted to share this amazing drawing of Darius Logan, from my novel Super Justice Force, courtesy JJ Kirby. JJ and I just collaborated on a story for Marvel’s Battleworld #2, which comes out June 2015.

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Seattle or Bust: Emerald City Comic Con

ecccYes, kids, I know I haven’t updated the site in nearly a month. Sorry. I’ve been busy. Crazy busy. Just wanted to let you all know I’ll be in Seattle this coming weekend for the Emerald City Comic Con. This is a great show, and I’ll be there, selling merchandise and on several panels. Hope to see some of you there.

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Lessons in Black History – SPENCER WILLIAMS

spencer williamsSpencer Williams—A highly regarded actor and filmmaker, Spencer Williams will always be best remembered for being Andy on The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show that ran on television between 1951 and 1953 for a total of 78 episodes. Williams was born in 1873, and began his career in showbiz working for Oscar Hammerstein in the early 1900s. He was also mentored by legendary vaudeville performer Bert Williams, considered one of the greatest comedians of all time, and one half of the Walker and Williams comedy duo. Spencer Williams began working in film in the 1920s, with producer Al Christie hiring him to write dialog for a series of short all-black comedies. Williams cut his teeth behind the camera working for Christie in a variety of capacities, which prepared him for a career on his own making race films. Williams wrote Harlem Rides the Range (starring Herb Jeffries) and Son of Igagi. Alfred Sack, a distributor of race movies, was so impressed with Williams work as a writer, he offered him a chance to write and direct his own film. Williams’s debut film as a writer-director was 1941’s Blood of Jesus, and a huge financial success that led to eleven more films throughout the 1940s. Also an accomplished comedic actor, Williams would leave directing to star in The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show. Williams continues to act after the cancellation of the show, but would retire from showbiz altogether in 1959.

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Lessons in Black History – Oliver Brown

oliverbrownOliver Brown—The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case of Brown vs. the Board of Education helped lay the groundwork for ending segregation in the United States. Sadly, most people don’t know who Brown was. Oliver Leroy Brown was a welder, minister and father of three in Topeka, Kansas, in 1950. Brown’s 8-year-old daughter Linda was forced to attend a segregated all-black school several miles from the family home, when there was an all-white school several blocks from the Brown home. Brown tried to enroll Linda at Sumner Elementary, but she was denied entrance to the school based on segregation laws. Brown joined with twelve other parents in filing a lawsuit on behalf of twenty black school children. Brown was chosen to be the lead plaintiff in the case, although no one seems to know why. By the time the case was argued before the Supreme Court, more than just the families of Oliver Brown and other parents in Topeka were being represented. In fact, Brown vs. the Board of Education consolidated five cases from four different states, and represented more than 200 plaintiffs. In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, overturning the earlier 1896 case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, which made “separate but equal” the law of the land. The ruling in the Brown case stated that segregated schools must desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” This particular phrasing was open to interpretation, in some cases states took more than twenty years to desegregate the schools.

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